“When you watch someone you love almost die and then come back to life it gives you a new perspective. Dad’s illness and recovery made me want to help others who are hurting or suffering. It made me pursue an education to become a nurse. I appreciate my family more but most of all it showed me the power of being an organ donor. The crazy thing is we can all do it…it’s literally like a super power!” – Mallory Ensley
Although that day seemed like a lifetime ago, the memory falls over Mallory like a soft blanket. She can still recall the hint of pine in the air and the almost sweet fragrance from the rain the day before. They had finally reached the mountains peak, and the sky above was bright blue and clear.
With the exhilaration of a child, she exclaimed, “Daddy, we made it.”
That was a good day– although she was only seven, Mallory would remember it forever. Her dad, strong, healthy and vibrant, taught her courage and bravery, and how to reach for the impossible and overcome the mountains in her life.
Not long after that day he became sick. Vomiting after meals and with high blood pressure, he would lay awake most nights restless and weak. Mallory worried and didn’t understand why he couldn’t play anymore.
In 2001, shortly after turning eleven, her dad, was diagnosed with polycystic kidney disease. The diagnosis explained his failing health, but the impending fear of losing him caused her to withdraw. She developed severe anxiety and depression and went through a period of denial pretending it wasn’t as bad as the doctors had determined.
In her senior year of high school, the disease progressed into End Stage Renal Failure (ESRF) and immediately her father began dialysis. Faced with the knowledge that he could die Mallory didn’t know how to process her feelings and began acting out in severe teenage defiance.
“I saw my Dad’s illness as abandonment and as a result, I didn’t trust people. I didn’t want to lose the people I loved,” says Mallory. “I resented my mom but also felt guilty about my dad.”
Ironically, it was the strength of her sister that helped pull Mallory through the darkness of her dad’s disease. “We have a special bond now because of Dad’s illness. When times got tough, and no one else would understand, we had each other.” They embraced lyrics from a song by a band, Hole– “live through this with me, and I’ll swear that I’ll die for you.”
As time passed, her dad got worse. In 2011, he lost nearly 100-pounds and was at the point of death. Dialysis wasn’t working, and he had become a ghost of the man she once remembered.
Mentally, she prepared herself for his death– accepting that he would never walk her down the aisle on her wedding day or hold his future grandchild in his arms. Those thoughts were no longer hers to dream.
Then she heard that a stranger was a perfect match for her father and wanted to donate him a kidney. Mallory could hardly believe it, and, to be honest, was afraid to, after all, that her family–her father had been through.
As the day of the transplant approached, fear and apprehension filled Mallory as she worried about her father’s body rejecting the new kidney. Or worse if the donor would change her mind or regret her decision?
All her fears were proven unfounded when Mallory saw her dad the day after the surgery sitting up, laughing and eating a cheeseburger.
He was alive!
Instantaneously, he looked like he did before getting sick– his cheeks flushed pink with a devilish twinkle in his eyes.
Today, Mallory is a more grateful person who believes in the power of prayer and has a new outlook on life.
Her father is well and loves to travel with her mother to the mountains and the beach– a life that wasn’t possible a few years ago.
Recently, Mallory married her best friend and with her father by her side; she walked down the aisle to her new life. The newlyweds are expecting their first child. The baby is due on July 6, 2016– five years to the day of the transplant surgery that not only saved her father’s life but hers, as well.
And Mallory dares to dream, again!